Behavioral Biology of the Dog


AUDIENCE: It does not make for light reading, but it will not be insurmountably dry to the motivated layman. If you’re feeling intimidated, just familiarize yourself with the high level contents, and read individual chapters as needed.

SUMMARY: The book contains review articles about:


  • Scientific classification
  • Evolutionary history
  • Domestication history
  • Breed diversity history


  • Mechanism and function of behaviour
  • Genetics of behaviour
  • Sensory physiology
  • Social behaviour
  • Learning

Human influence

  • Behaviour of free-ranging dogs
  • Evolution of working dog breeds
  • Individual dog personality
  • Social cognition in dogs and human-animal interactions
  • Behavioural problems
  • Behavioural problems and disease

REVIEW: Some of the articles are quite technical (e.g. the mtDNA study), so you might have to get the old biology dictionary out. But it’s well worth the effort, as it really gives you THE seminal articles from THE leading authors on each subject it tackles.

Some articles reviews the current understanding of difficult issues like the history of dog domestication. Of course, as time goes by, more research is conducted, and the book will quickly become out of date. It will remain a classic collection of reviews nonetheless.

I have found this book to be an invaluable reference when digging deep into a specific topic. It always has that ONE pivotal article that is still influencing researchers on that particular topic today.

The sampling of topics did confound me a little, and some subjects received much more attention (e.g. evolutionary biology) than others (e.g. socialisation), with little in the way of a framework explaining these choices.

In short: I find it an invaluable resource if you’re serious about a career with dogs – be it as a trainer or a behaviourist. It comes back again and again in the reference section of books for the layman, so why not give yourself and treat and see what the fuss is about?

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Author: Jensen Per
Genre: survey of peer-reviewed literature
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